It goes almost without saying that 2020 will go down as a tough year for college students looking to get a job or an internship.
“It has certainly forced our hand into being more creative with the technology we have,” says Jean Drasgow, director of career services for the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.
That creativity has been coming from companies, from the universities and from the students and graduates.
A recent online poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicated that of the 353 employers who responded, about 19% were revoking offers to interns and about 3.5% were revoking offers to full-time recruits.
Some employers were not offering internships or full-time jobs that had been on the table before the COVID-19 situation exploded. And some internships or new jobs were being switched to virtual work situations.
It’s a tough situation, according to Mike Gaul, director of career services for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University.
He’s had only five internships canceled, but many other internship programs were reduced and offers that had not been extended just disappeared.
What’s more, internships that have been shortened or are moving to some type of remote situation reduce the chance for interns to learn about a company culture and to make career connections, he says. But it is still better than nothing.
Officials in both Iowa and Illinois announced recently they plan to hold college classes in person this fall, which Gaul says is good news, but he adds that the situation is fluid.
And Gaul says he expects that enrollment in colleges and universities in the United States may drop by as much as 15% next fall. Some potential students may simply see college as too expensive in light of changes in family and national finances. Others may decide to go to community college, which is less expensive.
Some college majors are likely to be impacted more than others by the virus situation. Finance majors might still do well and tech majors should benefit, Gaul says. It is possible that areas such as animal science and food science could benefit as manufacturers look at issues related to economics and logistics.
But Drasgow says internships in areas such as food science are difficult at the moment because most such jobs can’t easily be done remotely. And any job related to the restaurant or food services industry could be in short supply at the moment.
For now, both Drasgow and Gaul advise students to not obsess about the situation and to try to think outside the box.
“Restaurants and labs may be among the hardest hit,” she says.
Gaul and Drasgow are trying to figure out how to help their students. Both normally plan large job fairs on campus in the fall. Those fairs may need to change, they say. Gaul says he is looking at the possibility of a virtual job fair.
For now, both Drasgow and Gaul advise students to not obsess about the situation and to try to think outside the box. And for all students or prospective students, understand that this will pass but that things will look different in the short term, they say.
“It will be a weird fall,” Drasgow says.